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(15,309 posts)
Wed Apr 17, 2024, 06:47 AM Apr 2024

What toilets can reveal about COVID, cancer and other health threats (Nature)


17 April 2024

What toilets can reveal about COVID, cancer and other health threats

Wastewater testing grew tremendously during the pandemic. But is it ready to tackle the opioid crisis, air pollution and antibiotic resistance?

By Betsy Ladyzhets

In late 2020, COVID-19’s global death toll was rising as cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere and holiday gatherings spurred rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the absence of a vaccine. Scientists and public-health officials were desperate for new ways to track the virus, which often moved faster than contact tracers could follow it.

Tong Zhang, an environmental engineer and microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), and his colleagues were pioneers of what was fast becoming a popular surveillance method. They had been collecting periodic wastewater samples from about two dozen maintenance holes in the city and testing the sewage for coronavirus DNA, with support from Hong Kong’s government. In late December, they traced an outbreak to a single apartment building where there had been no sign of cases1.

The government quickly took action. Officials tested all of the building’s 2,000-odd residents; 9 tested positive. “Those people were isolated and went to a quarantine site. So they stopped the transmission chain,” Zhang says. After that success, he and his colleagues expanded their efforts.


Wastewater testing remains part of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 strategy to this day. Zhang’s team tests for the coronavirus at about 20 sites across the city each week, he says, and the team has expanded the analysis of these samples to cover other pathogens, including influenza, rotavirus, norovirus and mpox, as well as markers of antimicrobial resistance. He views wastewater testing as a way to gauge the health of an entire community at once. “If we can make the methodology more standardized”, this tool becomes a “promising and exciting” way to screen the world for pathogens, including those that scientists haven’t yet identified,he says.


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What toilets can reveal about COVID, cancer and other health threats (Nature) (Original Post) sl8 Apr 2024 OP
Santa Clara county CA keeps wastewater records dickthegrouch Apr 2024 #1
Does Nature.com understand that this is being done here? sybylla Apr 2024 #2
It seems that they do: sl8 Apr 2024 #3


(3,274 posts)
1. Santa Clara county CA keeps wastewater records
Wed Apr 17, 2024, 11:12 AM
Apr 2024

I’ve been using them religiously for 2years now. The other graphs the county puts out show definitively that vaccines work.



(8,637 posts)
2. Does Nature.com understand that this is being done here?
Wed Apr 17, 2024, 12:30 PM
Apr 2024

Check out https://data.wastewaterscan.org/ to see wastewater treatment facilities across the US currently testing for all these items and publishing the results.


(15,309 posts)
3. It seems that they do:
Wed Apr 17, 2024, 12:38 PM
Apr 2024

Last edited Wed Apr 17, 2024, 07:18 PM - Edit history (1)


By the end of 2020, several studies had shown that levels of coronavirus in public water systems could correlate with the number of COVID-19 cases in the community. For example, researchers at Stanford University in California found that viral levels in wastewater rose and fell with cases in the San Francisco Bay area3. The group that led the work has gone on to found the WastewaterSCAN project, which tests samples from nearly 200 sites across the United States (see ‘Peak transmission’).

Peak transmission: Chart showing levels of SARS-Cov2 in wastewater tests in California and Georgia peaking in December 2023.


Interesting site, thanks for the link.
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